The Effects Of Global Warming Have Reached The World’s Southernmost Coral Reefs
Previously unaffected areas have also started exhibiting damage now. One such area was the southern parts of Australia, house to the world’s largest coral reef. Bleaching is not the same as dying but, the health of the coral is definitely under extra stress and can lead to eventual death.
This is exactly what has been spotted in the corals near Lord Howe Island, which is 600 km away from the coast of Sydney. This area was previously undamaged from the effects of global warming when the Great Barrier Reef faced severe bleaching in 2017. These are the southernmost coral reefs along the Australian coast and researchers have found them to be around 90% bleached already.
The corals in the deeper regions of the marine park were relatively healthier and didn’t exhibit any bleaching. These effects are also elevated due to the onslaught of summer in the southern hemisphere. The extent of damage is still within the realm of recovery and the scientists will be returning to Lord Howe Island to evaluate if these corals have any chance of recovery. If the water temperatures drop, the corals can recover back to a healthier state, and be attractive for algae to populate them once again.
So technically, there is still hope for these corals to flourish. But if history is any indication, we haven’t really been successful at restoring and undoing the damage caused by global warming, the Great Barrier Reef posing as a poster boy for that statement. At the end of the day, this is another reminder for us, humans, to urgently take up practices that don’t put so much strain on the planet.
Changing snow harms Arctic wildlife
Snow is crucial to survival for Arctic wildlife. But climate change is altering the extent, timing and properties of Arctic snow and little is known about the detail of these changes.
In November 2013 tens of thousands of reindeer starved to death after a “rain on snow” event in Russia’s Yamal peninsula. Just as the reindeer reached their winter foraging grounds, rain created a layer of ice, preventing the reindeer from scraping away the snow to reach the vegetation beneath. It was a classic case of “the wrong kind of snow” and was hard to detect remotely.
Such events are anticipated to become more frequent as climate changes but our knowledge is limited because it’s tricky to observe them directly. Scientists describe three case studies.
For polar bears it’s snow drifts that matter. “In the winter the females den up to have their pups – on sea ice or on land – and the main condition is a sufficient accumulation of snow on the lee side of a ridge of a particular size.
Dall sheep, a species endemic to the mountain ranges of Alaska, seek out wind-exposed patches of vegetation along ridge-lines during the depths of winter. Trends of increased winter precipitation may put the sheep at risk, with the snow too deep to have enough of these windblown “holes”.
Caribou in central Canada undertake their massive spring migration a few weeks before snowmelt begins in earnest. They time their arrival at their calving grounds for when the snowmelt is about to start so that “greening up” of the landscape is imminent. Exactly which cues caribou use to determine when to start their journey isn’t known, but it’s likely they take note of snow depth and hardness.
The scientists propose further studies to better understand the relationship between existing snow patterns and the wildlife that rely on the snow for their survival.